Now is the Time to Save the Salish Sea and its Many Treasures

Our mission at Salish Center is to educate people about the fragility of the Salish Sea. Through our work, we encourage the viability and expansion of reefnet fishing and all selective and sustainable fishing practices, resulting in strengthening our wild salmon runs. This in turn will allow the survival of our southern resident orcas, along with all interdependent species, with the goal of making the Salish Sea the most sustainable salmon fishing region in the world. Through our direct strategic action, we do the work, fund the activities, and create the political will to do the things that will restore and protect the sea creatures living in our Salish Sea.

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We're working to refresh, restore, and recreate our great Salish Sea Waters.

It is no secret that the once pristine Salish Sea is struggling. Industrial development, environmental pollution, and irresponsible fishing methods have led to loss of habitat for our irreplaceable sea creatures. Our Southern Resident Orcas, the heart and soul of this region, are threatened with starvation and even extinction, and our salmon populations are in critical decline, threatening the future of our salmon fishing industry.

SalishCenter.org is inviting you to join us in our efforts to prevent this tragic loss of the Salish Sea’s unparalleled beauty and pristine waters. It is not too late to save the majestic orcas and the rich abundance of our salmon populations. Through our work, we encourage the viability and expansion of reefnet fishing and all selective and sustainable fishing practices. By strengthening our wild salmon runs, we will, in turn, allow the survival of our southern resident orcas, along with all interdependent species, thereby making the Salish Sea the most sustainable salmon fishing region in the world.

We Advocate for the Protection and Restoration of the Salish Sea

  • Protecting and restoring habitat throughout shorelines, rivers, and streams.
  • Advocating for dam removal or passageways to allow salmon to migrate.
  • Practicing sustainable and selective salmon harvests through reefnet fishing, practiced by Salish Peoples for centuries.
  • Providing educational programs for the practice of reefnet fishing.
  • Developing a Salish Sea Certified designation for seafood harvested from these waters.
  • Researching seaweed farms that sequester carbon, reverse local ocean acidification, clean sea water, and provide cover for fish.
  • Sponsoring ongoing hands-on fishing adventures on beautiful Lummi Island with gourmet dinners presented by award-winning chefs and winemakers.
  • Commissioning a life-sized sculpture of two orcas, entitled Mother & Child, created for prominent placement in a public space.

Join us as we work together with determination and dedication. We can do it—we should and we must if our region and its beautiful waterways and sea-life are to survive.

History tells us we can be successful at habitat restoration.

How do we know we can be successful at this? Because we have done it before! In 1975 as the founding president of a political group called The Inner Sound Crab Association, Riley Starks led the group in addressing the problem of the destruction of molting crab by the bottom trawlers (draggers). “Dragging,” as it is called, is the most destructive method of fishing that exists. At that time there were 16 draggers working the waters of the Straits of Georgia and all the waters around the San Juan Islands. They would routinely go into shallow bays in search of flounder, a very low value food fish, during the time when Dungeness crabs were molting. The crabs shed their hard shells and for a brief period are completely defenseless with shells as soft as plastic wrap.

We wanted to document the effects the dragging was having on the crab populations and hired a helicopter to fly over and film as a dragger was bringing its bag up over the stern, showing the utter destruction of thousands of crabs as they squeezed through the meshes like jelly. We gave the film to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, who knew what was likely going on but had no proof. It took 16 years for it to happen, but finally the state developed the political will to retire the dragging boats.

And what happened? During the 17 years I was a commercial crab fisherman, before the draggers were banned, our total inner Sound harvest was an average of 5 million pounds per year—Today it is over 12 million. When I fished, it was rare to find a crab much over the legal limit of 6¼ inches and weighing more than 1¾ lbs.—Today it is common to find 7-inch crabs, and some as much as 3 lbs. The result is that because the resource is great enough, the population is not over-exploited.

AND, as an unintended consequence of the dragger ban, there is now a halibut fishery where there was once none. Halibut needs to be at least 10 years old to spawn, but because of the relentless trawling fishery, very few ever made it to that age. There is now a 200,000 lb. tribal-only commercial halibut fishery, with an equal quota for sports fishers.

With initiative, good policy and political will, we were able to preserve the crabbing industry.

Chefs in Raingear

We offer a unique two day program called Chefs in Raingear. During the fishing season, we bring up to 4 chefs, from all over the world, to fish with us. They stay at Nettles Farm, where, after a day of fishing, we retire as a group to cook a meal of salmon, and whatever is growing at the farm. We practice Ike-Jime bleeding, which allows the fish to be consumed the day it is caught.

The cost for this experience is $400, which includes lodging and meals. Scheduling for this program is difficult, because each fishing season is unique, but as the season approaches we will have a better grasp of when we will fish. Odd-numbered years are much easier to schedule due to the pink salmon runs that only come on those years. So, August, September and October are generally available. On even-numbered years, we will fish toward the end of July, the first two weeks of August, and the last week of September until October 15. This latter time is a daily fishery that can be counted on and scheduled easily in advance on any year.

Be Part of this Important Movement

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and all donations are tax deductible. You can now be an integral part of saving the art of reefnetting for future generations, and in doing so make a difference to our salmon, our orcas, and the Salish Sea itself. By donating to the Salish Center, you can help us succeed in our goals for the coming year:

See our levels of giving:

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